Sunday, August 18, 2013

Tri Friend- Alberto Navarro (Miami FL)

Love Alberto's story as he is one of the few that has won a Kona Slot via the lottery.  His road was a bit bumpy leading up to it but seeing his kung-fu jump at the finish line was amazing!  Check out his insightful interview for those who want to daydream about their chance of "winning the lottery."

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1. Tell us a little about yourself
Back in 2005 I was a sedentary professional couch potato, with being at my heaviest at 180lb. From there my journey started, I decided to change. I was really depressed and stuff, but I decided to put balls in the wall and do it. I discovered running. 10 min in the treadmill would kill me and felt like forever!, SO boring!.

Got an iPod, put cool music and started to look forward to run to hear the tunes. I used to take the car to the gym, and suddenly I started running to the gym. I started doing 5k (which I thought was the longest distance ever!), and kept the challenges coming, 10k, half-marathon and then the full marathon.

Never thought I would run these crazy distances, and after doing these races I thought... "What else is out there?", "what else I am capable of doing?". Let's give it a TRI. I run already, lets add swimming and biking to the equation!

From there it started, learning to clip on the bike came along with a lot of ground kissing, but never got discouraged, I kept on trying and trying! So hard to do not only one, but THREE sports! Finally I did my first triathlon, a sprint distance! Such accomplishment! Keep them coming! Olympic distance triathlon! , so this is what the Olympians do, awesome!!! What else I can do?

How about running a half-marathon after swimming and biking! Bring it!!! My first major injury came along with it, but I finished it! Not only that but I signed for a race that involved 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a FULL marathon at the end!!! What is this madness all about?

Able to move my knee again, I trained and trained, booking up long training hours on the weekend (9 hour training days? That is normal!). Finally I accomplish what many (including myself) though impossible, finishing an Ironman.

My journey of 8 years. From a 10 min sufferfest in the treadmill to an insane 17 hour challenge. My question to you is… what have you done to challenge yourself? What have you done to prove that anything is possible and make your dreams a reality?

2. You raced Kona in 2012, can you tell us about your journey getting to the start line (i.e. how you got your entry and how you trained differently in anticipation of some of Kona's challenges)
The race that inspired me to become a triathlete haunted my dreams. Until the dream became a reality and got the chance to race the Ironman World Championship. I literally played the lottery, the Kona Lottery, and got one of the 100 sports available. When you wonder that around 8000 people apply for it annually, and just 100 get in… YES, I was VERY lucky to get a spot haha, I should have played the real lottery instead!

So that’s how it started. Unfortunately the road to Kona was not an easy one. It started badly. 3 weeks before my training started I suffered an accident and sprained my ankle really badly. I had torn a ligament, sprain 2 ligaments and had a bone contusion. I couldn’t believe I had messed up my once in a lifetime opportunity to race Kona. I was devastated, and the doctor said I wouldn’t make it.

I was in crutches for a month and couldn’t walk, and supposedly I should be training already. When the cast was off, I started physical therapy 3x a week, and started swimming first. I could feel pain in the ankle while kicking and worse when I would flip turn and kick from the wall. Few weeks later I jumped on the bike again. But no running, at all, I could just barely walk straight.

I knew Kona was hot, and Miami’s weather took care of that. Additionally I knew I had a big climb ahead in the road to Hawi, and Miami is pancake flat… and the only thing hilly here is a bridge. But really my objective now was not to get the fit to tackle Kona, but to get fit to at least start the race. I was doing the impossible to get my ankle better and prove everyone wrong. Many of my friends trusted me and helped me one way or another and I couldn’t let them down. Whatever will happen in Hawaii I would just have to “embrace the suck”.

8 weeks before Kona and finally I could start running. Not full speed as before the injury, but at least it was something. It was just in time to hit the long miles. It was really tough, not only physically… but mentally.

In summary I was unable to walk for month and a half, and I had to restart everything from scratch. The road to the Kona start line was a hard one. No words can describe the emotion of finishing it, after the bumpy road I had. Is times like these when you have to get tough and just do it. It was a big lesson of how to deal with injury while training for something bigger than yourself.

3. We all know Kona is special but what were some of the hidden perks you discovered as a participant?
Is amazing the feeling you get from the town. Literally for a week, Kona becomes “Ironman City”. You see these 70 year old all chisel with 6 packs, everyone is damn fit! No wonder the best of the best go there. Is great to talk to the local shops, that have embraced the race every year and they will tell you stories. There’s a lot of freebies too and all the brands are doing something around… that you cannot really keep up with everything. You will see the Pros all around training or doing showing for the fans.

For me it was very special to be the only representative of my country, Ecuador, racing Kona in 2012. On Wednesday they have the Parade Of Nations, and I was the only one carrying my country’s flag (by the way that darn flag was heavy to carry! haha).

Another great memory I have was on my first day in Kona. My friends and I were walking around the hotel and we decided to check out the gym. As I opened the door to them another guy walks behind them. To my surprise it was Craig “Crowie” Alexander!!! My first day in Hawaii and the first person I see is the defending World Champion! I felt like a school girl in a Beatles concert! He was very nice, and exchanged some words with him, and of course took a picture with him J

4. What started the awesome finisher jump?

It all started when I finish my second marathon, 2010 ING Miami Marathon. Aside from practicing endurance sports, I’m a martial artist too. I practice Hung-Gar Style Kung-Fu and I have some knowledge in Jeet-Kune-Do, Brazilian Jujitsu, Hagganah, Muay Thai and Karate.

When I did it the first time, I just wanted to have a cool finish line picture… but I wanted something unique… something of my own. Most people finish rising their arms, full smile, but I just wanted something different.

I always remember my coach saying "Start like a cat, finish like a Lion!" Now it has become a custom for me to finish all my important races with a flying kick. It has become my signature finish move, it has several names: the Kick of Justice, the Iron Kick, Spider Kick, but the most popular is the Kung-Fu Panda kick! Haha. When people see the photos of the kick, a lot of people ask me how the hell I had the energy to jump so high and do that? (If you come to think about it, how the hell I can jump that high after running a marathon or an Ironman?) I finally found my answer. I take it as a celebration of life and what can be done when you put your mind and soul into something. Finish with a blast, finish big, FINISH STRONG!!!


 5. Every race report has amazing photos in every discipline, do you buy all your pictures, or do you have triathlon paparazzi following you?

Luckily there’s always someone of my team taking pictures of everyone racing, which I mostly thank them. Sometimes I do buy the race pictures, mostly of important events, or if I see a photo that I need to have, I would buy the whole pack, because it is cheaper. I always get the digital downloads.

Actually, the only time I had a paparazzi was in Hawaii. My friends that were with me were almost documenting my every move. I was starting to freak out with the presence of the camera on top of my face haha. Eventually it would be nice to have a sherpa following me on my races and take pics of me

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